<em>By Jedd Ferris</em>
Noah Barber is six years old, and he can ride better than you. Not yet out of first grade Barber rips through singletrack, hops log-crossings, and lands freeride jumps
with more bravado than most adults. With his young prowess he has become the subject of major Internet buzz on MTB message boards. A quick search on Ridemonkey.com yields over a hundred threads gawking at his unbelievable ability. His You Tube video clips get hit hits from as far away as Japan. The online world knows Noah by his nickname, Lil Manimal, which he inherited from his father, Brandon Barber, a High Point, N.C., police officer and avid rider that goes by Manimal.
It seems like Noah has a genetic predisposition to pedal. Believe it or not his first word was. “bike.” He’s been riding without training wheels since age 3.
“Instead of watching Barney, he grew up watching bike videos with me,” says Brandon. “He’s got the bug for riding bikes. I try not to push it, but he really seems to enjoy it.”
At first Noah would crash on purpose, trying to mimic his favorite part of the bike videos, but he eventually learned it was more comfortable to stay on the bike. By age four he was catching major air. Noah and his dad ride regularly at Country Park in Greensboro and Hobby Park in Winston-Salem. Noah likes riding through the woods, but he prefers landing dirt jumps at the freeriding parks. He also likes ramps at Creation Skate Park in Kernersville.
“The jumps are my favorite,” he says. “I get a little scared if I haven’t done it in a longtime.”
“He likes showing off for girls,” Brandon adds. “He drops off anything he can find.”
It’s obvious this Lil’ Manimal will be breaking hearts in the Blue Ridge for a long time to come. He’s already made his presence known on the racing scene. Last year he competed in the downhill event at Dark Mountain. He also unofficially rode the pro dual form course at Sugar Mountain.
Inevitably being such a young daredevil comes with its share of cuts and bruises. Last year he took a nasty spill while trying to jump a set of steps.
“My wheel got turned, and I fell off my bike and hit my nose. It hurt.”
In addition to biking, Noah also does gymnastics with his younger sister. When he gets home a long day of riding he looks forward to his favorite snacks: “Popcorn and M&M’s.”